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Prayer on the Brain: Neurotheology As technological progress becomes more and more pronounced in virtually every area of life, many scientists have found new ways to use these advances to explore some profound questions about the intersection of the physical and the divine. One area of research that has recently emerged is the discipline of neurotheology. Neurotheology, as defined by Dr. Andrew Newberg, is “an integration of neuroscience with religion.” A neuroscience expert from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Newberg has been using brain scan technology to learn more about electrical activity in the brain during religious or meditative experiences. Although the field is relatively new, scientists have been asking questions about the brain’s role in religious belief for decades. As understanding of the structure and function of the brain has continued to develop, new theories have emerged. Some ideas have been discredited or ruled incomplete, while some areas of study, like neurotheology, have grown and yielded interesting results. One of the more interesting studies involved Buddhist monks, Franciscan nuns, and Pentecostal Christians. The same scanning technology used to explore the causes of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease was directed towards their prayer and meditation practices. What the researchers found is that the subjects’ frontal lobes, parietal lobes, and limbic systems all showed similar heightened activity. Though the data has been interpreted by different people in different ways, what is clear is that prayer and meditation seem to have a unique biochemical effect on the brain. Scientists like Dr. Newberg have been using such data to create a fuller picture of the neurological landscape when a person enters a religiously sensitive mindset. The most important underlying question is a matter of perspective: were humans physiologically programmed to pray? Or is the brain activity simply evidence that, for those who believe in a divine being, prayer is “all in their head”? The most recent research doesn’t answer this question, of course, but it does move the conversation into new territory.


The goal for Dr. Newberg and many of his colleagues is “to find ways in which both science and religion or spirituality can be enhanced by the other rather than diminished or attacked.� Now that these exciting new studies have demonstrated clearly that prayer and meditation make the brain work in a unique way, there is an opportunity to begin a new dialogue between science and spirituality. Neurotheology represents the chance to ask new questions and evaluate spirituality from a scientific perspective, and researchers like Dr. Newberg are fully embracing the endless possibilities this new area of study unlocks. The hope, as always, is that a deeper understanding about how the brain works can help inform similarly deep questions about what it means to be human. For Christians and other devotees, prayer is just one of the many ways to practice living in the power of the spirit. This new neurological data being gathered probably won’t fundamentally change the beliefs of the faithful, but it might lead to a greater understanding of and respect for the scientific components of religious life among all people in every culture. For more information visit us at http://www.tellthemthatilovethem.net

Prayer on the brain neurotheology  

Neurotheology is a relatively new scientific discipline that combines neuroscience with spirituality and religion. Researchers are using sop...

Prayer on the brain neurotheology  

Neurotheology is a relatively new scientific discipline that combines neuroscience with spirituality and religion. Researchers are using sop...

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